Community Involvement

Dispel the False Allure of the “Facebook Fire Challenge”

Facebook Fire Challenge

(Photo Credit: Forward Times Online)

Recently, there has been a burgeoning interest in the “Facebook Fire Challenge,” where mostly young guys, are sharing via Facebook their acts of self-immolation. This phenomenon is one of the strongest examples of how destructive this willingness to do almost anything to gain fame has become.  As someone who has devoted his academic and social justice work to ameliorating the lives of Black boys and men, it’s disheartening to witness a disproportionate number of these self-immolations being committed by young Black males.  This is why we have to continue to promote strengthening the Black male educational pipeline. Ensuring that Black males are receiving a high quality education, regardless of their backgrounds, is the key to combating a nihilistic spirit that’s running rampant throughout America, including in many impoverished Black communities.  Authentic, selfless and quality mentoring of young Black males is one of the most powerful tools of resistance we have at our disposal against this growing nihilistic spirit in America, especially in many Black communities.

Our young Black males need people around them who will tell and show them they love them and that they matter.  Nihilism is imbuing the psyches of too many young Black males.  We have to stay actively involved in their lives to help them avoid doing damaging and unproductive things.  While many may assert that one of the central reasons why many Black males are involving themselves in the “Facebook Fire Challenge” is the absence of numerous Black fathers in the home, we can no longer allow this to be the oversimplified conclusion of the narrative.  We have to identify homes where there are young Black males with absent fathers, and when we locate these homes, we need community leaders to partner those young guys with quality mentors.  How can we practically accomplish this?

Well, we’re always taking about starting a movement and/or being part of a movement.  Why don’t we start a national movement to take back our Black boys from the manacles of despondency and nihilism?  One of the best ways to prevent our Black boys from being destroyed by despondency and nihilism is to create mentoring programs in every community where Black boys are present.  We need to partner every Black boy with a mentor, especially those boys with absent fathers.  These programs don’t have to cost any money to form.  It does not cost any money to be willing to accept the role of a true mentor.  If community leaders would like to develop mentoring programs that are highly sophisticated and well-financed, this, of course, is absolutely fine.  Regardless of the approach taken in each community, what’s most important is for the community to act.  Young Black boys need to see more examples of success in their communities.  Successful individuals within their communities can aid in modeling success for them.

Have you endorsed the “Facebook Fire Challenge”?  You have if you’ve shared one video of these acts of self-immolation.  Stop sharing these videos.  When these young people begin to see that they don’t have a large audience for their foolish acts, they will realize self-immolation is an act that will not gain them the attention they desire.  Instead of sharing videos of acts of self-immolation, let’s use various social media platforms to oppose participation in the “Facebook Fire Challenge,” and let’s provide substantive education about the dangers of involving one’s self in such risky behavior.  Too many young people believe they will earn respect from millions of people across the country and world by posting videos of themselves participating in the “Facebook Fire Challenge,” but when more young folks hear and read a significant number of fervid protests against involvement in this phenomenon, we will have made a noble effort to encourage them to come off of a metaphorical bridge to disaster.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Donate to an Effective Ministry: Paradise Church of God in Christ

Paradise Church of God in Christ

(Photo Credit: Paradise Church of God in Christ)

Grace to you in the name of our Lord and Savior:

I am a member of Paradise Church of God in Christ at 4234 Hendrix Drive, Forest Park, Georgia 30297.  To begin, I would like to invite you to join us for worship. Our Pastor, Bishop Paul L. Fortson, is a wonderfully-inspired man of God who loves the Lord and loves His people.  It would be a pleasure to have you attend one of our anointed services in the near future.

Also, I would like to take this opportunity to ask for your support as our church tackles a monumental task.  In 2002, Bishop Fortson was led by the Lord to build a gymnasium and cultural center for the members of Paradise and our surrounding community.  In 2003, we opened the doors to the newly-built Paradise Gymnasium & Cultural Center.  Since then, many wonderful things have transpired to not only benefit our members, but also our local community, the city of Forest Park, and neighboring cities throughout Clayton County.

With a goal to help community residents make positive changes in their lives and build stronger families, Paradise has assisted men, women and youth through mentoring programs, sports tournaments, career and education coaching, and parenting and life skills development.  I am Godly-proud to share that several of the young men and women we have worked with have gone on to college or trade school and are now productive citizens in their respective communities.  Additionally, in 2012, we served the international community by partnering with Forest Park’s City Government as the host site for over 100 volunteers who collectively packaged more than 20,000 meals for the people of Haiti.

Given our Center’s impact, our desire is not only to continue serving in this capacity, but also to do more!  Today, our church is facing a financial challenge, however.  God has given a vision through our Pastor called Sponsor a Saint.  I am asking you to Sponsor a Saint by sowing a seed of $100, $50, or $25.  By sowing a seed, once or becoming a ministry partner, you will enable us to liquidate our mortgage (one million dollars) for the Paradise Gymnasium & Cultural Center.  By liquidating the mortgage, it will allow us to expand our community service and do more.  I believe God placed our church here to help people.  Moreover, I believe God is going to bless you for whatever amount He leads you to give.  We have selected the following theme for this year: “We are called to minister and witness to a deeply distressed and troubled world” (Acts 20:15-18).

With your help and God on our side, we are going to make it!  We would be pleased and honored if you would take a moment and sow a seed today.  You can mail your seed offering to the address above, or please go to our website at www.paradise/cogic.org and make your donation.  All donations are tax deductible.

Be blessed in Jesus name,

Antonio Maurice Daniels

Director of Christian Education

Chairman of Education Special Interest Group

Paradise Church of God in Christ

Reverend Markel Hutchins: Linking Activism and Ministry

Markel Hutchins

(Photo Credit: WSB TV)

A champion for racial, social and economic justice and product of Morehouse College, Reverend Markel Hutchins serves as a shining progressive example of how postmodern Black preachers should be passionately active in their communities.  Hutchins has not been derelict in his duty to engage in civil and human rights efforts, efforts like those Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X championed. Even when he was in high school, one could see a burgeoning fighter for justice in the making: He led a march against the proliferation of drugs in the neighborhood surrounding his school.  Mr. Hutchins went on to become an ordained Baptist minister, leading Markel Hutchins Ministries.  Although there are laws prohibiting clergymen from being politically engaged in the confines of places of worship, this does not mean they cannot be involved in issues pertaining to social and economic policy affecting their communities, especially outside of their places of worship.  Hutchins certainly understands this.

Reverend Hutchins has an acute awareness of the power and significance of Black preachers’ serious involvement in political, social and economic issues during the Civil Rights Movement.  Black preachers during that period understood how to minister to the comprehensive needs of their congregants.  Yes, it’s one thing to feed one’s members spiritual food; another to feed their social, economic, professional and personal development.  Mr. Hutchins has been highly attentive to the complete needs of those he leads.  By doing this, he helps to further the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Although his leadership and ministry emerged in Atlanta, Georgia, a pivotal site during the Civil Rights Movement, his visionary leadership calls him to fight for justice throughout America.

When Black preachers invest in the communities in which they are situated, those communities become better places to live, work and play.  Unfortunately, too many Black preachers are too concerned about their personal and church’s financial prosperity to involve themselves in essential community development. Numerous pusillanimous Black preachers hide behind their collars and robes instead of tackling challenging and critical issues in their communities, including homelessness, police brutality, unfair labor practices, criminal justice system abuses, and racism, as Reverend Hutchins has done and continues to do.

Ministries not advocating for their communities are purposeless.

Markel Hutchins Ministries has purpose, vision and results.

While we increasingly see, hear and read accounts of preachers involved in corruption, and it’s easy not to support any preacher—which is a product of a burgeoning nihilistic impulse in postmodernism—it’s important to pay tribute to those preachers who are making a remarkable difference in the lives of people and their communities.  This is why we have to give Reverend Markel Hutchins his flowers while he’s living.  Although you may not always agree with his methods and viewpoints, it’s clear this man loves his country deeply enough to hold it accountable to fulfilling its nonpareil ideals—expressed most vividly and eloquently in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.  We should demand an America as good as it’s promised, and Hutchins is tireless warrior working to see those utopian founding ideals materialize.

When an individual thinks critically and comprehensively about the work Reverend Markel Hutchins has done and is doing, it becomes transparent why former Atlanta Mayor, Shirley Franklin, the first female mayor of Atlanta and first Black woman of a prominent Southern city, posits that he “will soon be celebrated as one of our nation’s most visible and viable public servants.”

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison